Category Archives: Social Justice

If We Ignore Institutional Racism, will it Actually Go Away?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the story of the teen from Memphis, Tennessee who stood up to her racist parents and earned herself a crisp $35,000+ right? If not, here is a quick rundown: a teen from Memphis stood up to her parents because they were against her having a black boyfriend. They denied her college tuition, so the teen took matters into her hands and started a GoFundMe page. The reaction to her tragedy was quite positive and she has proceeded to collect over $35,000 for her tuition. One might think that this story is a heart-warming tale of one girl’s fight for social justice and her rewards in the process, but it is much deeper and much more complicated.

Racism, in all of its complexities, can manifest itself in, more or less, 2 ways: institutional racism and interpersonal racism. The latter is more individualized, meaning that the individual/s involved are in control and are choosing to be racists to others, be it in a blatant manner or in the form of a microaggression. The former, however, is more systematic. It seeps into every part of our society, from our political systems to our educational systems and beyond. It is essentially built into our society. The former is derived from the latter, but the most important difference among them is that institutional racism is far less acknowledged than interpersonal racism. Institutional racism is a myth to all those who do not experience it, which unfortunately means that the majority of the U.S.’ population does not believe that institutional racism is real. So, if it’s not real, why bother acknowledging or fixing it?

Asking those kinds of questions is the problem. Racism does not just boil down to a dispute between one individual and another. It is constantly perpetuated by the society we live in and the rules we follow. Media outlets fail to address the fact that the institutions that govern us were built specifically to oppress minorities and people of color. Instead, we are given story after story like the teen from Memphis. Stories like these are great, but if we continue to ignore the fact that structural racism exists and solely bolster the idea that racism is an isolated issue, we will never be able to make real change.

Achieving Peace and Unity is Easier Done Than Said

You know what’s annoying? Good intentions.

Well that’s not true, good intentions with problematic consequences are annoying. After the elections results, people with various ties, or lack thereof, to the election had some strong opinions. It seemed like anyone and everyone had something to say. Then came the good intentions of people so tired of seeing people talk negatively about politics on their timelines. There was this rhetoric of “hey everyone let’s focus on promoting peace and unity and not this hateful divisive rhetoric.”

Now let’s break this down. On one hand, yes, we should be able to have civil dialogue and be able to converse about differing opinions in a respectful way. On the other hand, you’re asking people to focus on peace and unity when a man who ran a campaign on the opposite of those things just became our president-elect. See how that doesn’t really work?

So, instead of asking for people to be peaceful and unified from the comfort of your home, how about you get a little uncomfortable. Here are some ways to ACTUALLY promote peace and unity instead of tweeting about it. Be the change you want to see in the world right?

1) Participate in a discussion outside of social media.

Social media is a great place to express ideas and exchange dialogue, but in no way is it the best place. You can’t always get the tone of what someone is saying and it is easy to get on the defensive and misunderstand what people are actually saying. After the election, everyone was talking about it, rightfully so. People are going to need a couple of days to “get over” something that will potentially have a huge effect on their lives. Text, call, email, make plans for coffee, whatever and talk to someone you saw was really vocal about their feelings on the election. Talking to each other outside of the Internet will probably work better for you both.

2) Get involved in an organization that promotes unity.

If you want to talk the talk, you also have to walk to walk. Facilitate or even just participate in a  community discussion. If you don’t have anything to add to the conversation, at least act as a mediator to make sure things to get too heated. And outside of dialogue, get involved in organizations that are committed to fixing these issues in the first place. Peace and unity doesn’t come from simply getting along, it comes from actually understanding each other and the systems in place that create the issues we talk about in the first place.

3) Understand that peace and unity doesn’t always come from peace and unity.

People argue and disagree, that’s okay. Not everyone has to get along all the time. Would it be nice if we did? Yes. But we all know life doesn’t work like that. It’s beneficial for people to disagree and critique each others arguments in order to come up with a solution for everyone. How can we truly solve the problem if we just stop at addressing it and not addressing why people feel it’s a problem?

4) Have a discussion with the intent to seek peace and unity.

The most concerning thing about when people asking for peace and unity is that they are expecting for any conversation where people don’t agree to end up way too confrontational. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person and have a conversation where you don’t simply attack every point they bring up. If you go into the conversation wanting to listen, clarify if you have questions, then present your perspective, it will create a healthier way to discuss. Wanting peace and unity isn’t stepping away when people start to get confrontational, it’s redirecting the conversation and calling them out on it when it happens. It’s okay to want peace when discussing, but it’s also okay to walk away from that conversation when it is becoming more harmful than productive.

It’s okay to want peace and unity and those are obviously good traits to have when having a conversation, but we also need to be realistic. When you’re asking for unity are you really asking for people to talk so they can learn from each other? Or are you asking for people to be censored rather than challenge each other’s ideas?

Know Your Rights: Dos and Don’ts

Last Thursday, The Black Student Movement and the Campus Y co-hosted an event offering non-official advice for what students should and should not do when interacting with the police.

The event featured a panel consisted of Ada Wilson-Suitt, who currently serves as Director of Inclusive Student Excellence at UNC and previously was a practicing attorney.  The panel also featured Michael Jones and Ariel Smallwood, both second year law students at the UNC School of Law and President and Vice President of Black Law Student Association respectively.

The panelists wanted to make it clear they are not experts, but still gave excellent advice. Here are some of their tips:

1) Download the ACLU app. The app has a built in recording device that records both visual and audio. The app also has a tab titled “Know Your Rights” which details essential rights one should know. Essentially this app is very resourceful/useful and you should definitely get it!

2) Warrants are important. A warrant is absolutely necessary to search anything, your residence or your house. Courts don’t like when police officers search without warrants and anything they find without a warrant isn’t admissible in court, aka it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Take time to read over the warrant and make sure that it has your address on it, not just a general location.

3) Keep communication short and simple. Keep the conversations with law enforcement brief, direct, and only answer questions asked of you. If you are in a situation in which you are  read your rights, the only words you should be saying are “I want to speak to my attorney”.  You don’t have to speak but you should comply.

4) Keep calm and know your rights.  If you are being pulled over and you feel it is unsafe to do so, it is in your rights to put on your hazards and call 911 to notify them that you are pulling over to a protected area. If you’re ever accused of being under the influence you can request a witness be present.

In most situations law enforcement will treat you right, but it is important to know your rights!

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Stomping out the Stereotypes

As does anyone who is not a white heterosexual male, women face stigmas and stereotypes in our society. Those stereotypes can manifest themselves through various ethnic, social, sex, gender, and class issues. Socially ingrained presumptions affect all aspects of women’s lives, from the workplace to the familial and romantic relationships. Continue reading Stomping out the Stereotypes

Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

For the past two days at UNC, a non-campus affiliated organization called “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) set up posters and handed out flyers on Polk Place (the main quad) on campus. When I first saw them setting up bright, orange signs I thought it was for Holocaust awareness. I’d had friends last week standing in the Pit (UNC’s outdoor hub) reading names of Holocaust victims for 24 hours. I assumed it was work continuing for victims of genocide, particularly the Holocaust.
Continue reading Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

Would You Want to Know If There’s a Nazi in the Room?

Last Thursday, Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), visited UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus to discuss issues surrounding freedom of speech on college campuses. In his talk, he discussed how various college campuses are increasingly having speech codes for what is allowed to be said on campuses. In his talk, he gave examples of colleges/universities that are exhibiting relatively extreme speech codes- surprisingly, Lukianoff noted that UNC is one of the more freer universities who don’t have as many speech codes as other universities. FIRE puts universities in “speech code” rankings, that look like this:

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What Lukianoff wanted to emphasize throughout his talk was the increasing obsession with monitoring what is being said (or not said) on college campuses.  In the University of New Hampshire, for example, the words “elders/senior citizens”, “freshman”, “mailman”, “mothering/fathering”, “Arab”, and “American” are just some of the words that are prohibited from being said since they are triggering or bothersome to certain students. In UCLA, microaggressions there include “Where are you from or where were you born”, “America is a melting pot”,  and“I believe the most qualified person should get a job.” This culture of watching what one says, according to Lukianoff, is damaging to college campuses. Rather than encouraging dialogue, it actually makes communication less likely and makes people retreat from conversation. Likewise, it makes people feel like they are walking on eggshells when they are speaking to anyone with a different opinion than their own, and therefore makes them only grow closer to people who have similar opinions rather than those with differing opinions. Banning offensive language or discouraging free speech on campus also doesn’t stop people from being, let’s say, racist or homophobic. Rather, it just keeps these thoughts in their heads and makes them conglomerate with people who think like them. Quoting Lukianoff, “If there was a Nazi in the room, I’d like to know.”

Lukianoff’s talk is one that is needed on campus. Freedom of speech on campus is what promotes the variety of events, programs, and resources available to students on a daily basis. This freedom of speech has allowed students to feel safe, welcomed, and considered when they come to UNC. When freedom of speech starts becoming “Only say what everyone else agrees with”, that is when thinking is hindered and this university begins to fail. Often times, the liberal bubble that UNC students are put in keep them thinking in ways that don’t encourage diverse or critical thinking, but actually just keep feeding them the same information that they already agree with. For a student to have a truly liberal arts education, they need to be exposed to all forms of comments, criticisms, arguments, theories, and ideas. However, there are respectful and thoughtful ways to have these types of discussions. This isn’t done by fear-mongering, insulting other opinions/people, or by presenting unfactual information. Freedom of speech, I’d like to believe, doesn’t mean slander or marginalizing another group of people since those conflict with morality. Lukianoff’s talk showed that there are ways to express different ideas and opinions in ways that are constructive rather than destructive to the campus.

https://www.thefire.org/about-us/staff/

Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

Over the past week, the Criminal Justice Awareness and Action committee put on several events for their Criminal Justice Reform Advocacy week. Many students may have seen the replica solitary confinement cell in the pit last week; that was part of CJAA’s program, which also included a one-woman show on domestic violence, an art benefit night, and several discussions on other criminal justice-related topics. Continue reading Punishment and Privatization: Debunking the Prison Industrial Complex

The Power of Social Media

As protesters gather in the streets, from Ferguson to Chapel Hill, it seems increasingly evident that we are on the cusp of another Civil Rights Movement, a “Third Reconstruction” as Reverend Barber calls it. One of the greatest tools activists can use is social media. This unprecedented way to transform movements, to garner support, takes the protesting occurring on the streets and continues it on Twitter feeds across the nation. Our country’s residents are more connected than we have ever been. Yes, this has spawned a wave of “slactivism.” But it has also spawned a media revolution. Continue reading The Power of Social Media

Black Liberation Teach-In Series Presents: Afrofuturism

For this event, UNC Black Liberation decided to go with the title This World Ain’t Our Home: Afro-Futurist Galaxies of Black Art and Thought. As someone who knew very little of Afrofuturism, I was interested to see exactly how the event unfolded, and I was not disappointed. Continue reading Black Liberation Teach-In Series Presents: Afrofuturism

Using the Restroom Shouldn’t be this Hard

Picking a restroom has probably never been a struggle for you. You find the male or female stall and walk right in. No trouble. But imagine a situation where the signs on the wall are not male or female. There are two signs and you don’t fit into either of them. That’s unfair. Continue reading Using the Restroom Shouldn’t be this Hard